Having nothing better to do with their time after installing FlatTVs with Ambilight technology in George Clooney's (and other cast members') Hotel de Russie hotel room so he (and they) could live better than the average bear while filming the new "Ocean's Twelve", the friendly folks at Philips commissioned Harris Interactive to ask pointed questions about home entertainment of consumers in 13 countries. (Sorry, Iraq wasn't included.) The results of the Philip's Global Home Entertainment Survey are sure to be studied by generations of historians to come for the deep insights they provide into the shallow nature of humans all over the globe.
Snell Acoustics is tightening the grilles and polishing the dust caps on three new upgraded speakers which they'll introduce to the world during the CEDIA Expo in Indianapolis on September 7th. But you don't have to wait to hear about these new THX Ultra 2 Certified models, because we're going to spill the beans here before anyone else does. (Besides, unless you're a dealer or custom installer - or unemployable writer-type like most of us here - you wouldn't be able to crash the heavily armed security at the CEDIA Expo anyway. Just be thankful you've got us working for you. We sure are.)
<I>Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Timothy Spall, Billy Connolly, Tony Goldwyn, Hiroyuki Sanada, Koyuki. Directed by Edward Zwick. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French). Two discs. 154 minutes. 2003. Warner Home Video 28383. R. $29.95.
It's a new world. Though many of us lament the passing of the CRT as the premier video-display technology in most manufacturers' catalogs, that passing is happening rapidly. One of the favored alternatives is LCD, in both flat-panel and rear-projection designs. The latter, which use small LCD panels in conjunction with a projection lamp and optical path, are at present the more economical of the two—particularly in the larger screen sizes.
The most reliable guide to power ratings isn't the specs provided by the manufacturers but the measurements made by our technical editor. He follows the mandates of the Federal Trade Commission in measuring power output and distortion with all channels continuously driven (along with a less-demanding two-channel spec). When objective third-party measurements aren't available, here's a quick-and-dirty means of sorting high-power receivers from the junk: Just feel the weight. Aside from the nefarious inclusion of useless lead weights, more pounds indicate either the presence of a heavier power supply or a heavier, more-sturdy chassis—ideally, both. All things being equal, with conventional amplifiers, you don't need expensive test gear to figure out that a 50-pound model is likely to play louder and cleaner than a 15-pound lightweight, even if both are rated at 100 watts per channel.
This receiver's front panel is black but sets itself apart with a high-gloss finish and Pioneer's traditional (and rather attractive) amber display. It doesn't depend excessively on the jog dial. To the left, above the jog dial, are buttons labeled "music" and "movies," which make it easy to switch between Dolby Pro Logic II's music and movie modes (there's no IIx). To the right are buttons that choose the external line inputs for a universal player, select modes for the room EQ (including off), and bypass the tone controls for direct stereo playback. Touching any button on the remote activates red-orange backlighting.
If you're shopping for a deal, you might find one on this stylish two-tone receiver. Its list price is not the lowest in this group. Search the Internet, though, and you'll find good deals on the AVR 630 from authorized dealers. (To make sure you buy from an authorized dealer, with a valid warranty, check the "where to buy" page at www.harmankardon.com.) The street-price differential between the AVR 630 and the others in this roundup is many hundreds of dollars. For some, that may prove to be the deciding factor.
This feature-laden receiver conceals its gifts behind a basic black exterior. There's nothing unusual about the plain white fluorescent display, volume and jog dials, or flip-down panel that conceals most of the buttons. Denon's one original touch is a set of navigation controls behind the hinged panel that follow the same layout as those on the remote (up/down/left/right, with the enter button in the center).
With Omnifi, your MP3s are everywhere you want to be.
Liberating gear such as that manufactured by Omnifi, a division of Rockford Fosgate, compels me to look at where I spend the bulk of my waking hours: at the office, in the home theater, or in the car. As with all great action heroes, my daily adventures are set to music—not a problem when I'm chained to my desk with my entire music library at my disposal on my hard drive. A portable player is one way to transcend the confines of the workspace, and some even arrive bundled with cables to plug into a hi-fi system for all to enjoy, but this is hardly an elegant approach.
Throw Niro Nakamichi's name at the iPod generation, and you'll stump the panel. To an older generation, however, Nakamichi's three-head cassette deck, the Nakamichi 1000, elevated the lowly cassette to the world of the best recording medium of the day, the cumbersome reel-to-reel tape deck. In a way, the Nakamichi 1000 was an iPod forebear in the miniaturization and portability of recorded sound. After the Nakamichi family sold the company name in 1998, Niro Nakamichi started Mechanical Research to develop big-ticket electronics like the awe-inspiring $22,000 Niro 1000 Power Engine monoblock amplifier.